“Before you go, can I ask one more question?”
I knew Gary wouldn’t mind. Even though we’d only met an hour earlier, he’d already shared so much. This final question would be a pleasing one to him. And the answer would mean much to me.
The first question had come easily. He’d exposed an obvious opening, reading his Bible as he waited for the food we were serving the homeless.
I asked, “So what are you reading?”
That was all it took. If I remember right, he was in Isaiah, but he seized the moment and flipped over to other related passages, giving clear explanations for each. His Bible was heavily colored with highlighters and ink.
I asked, “Are you a student?”
No, he said he was actually a Bible teacher. (My bad. I’m still learning: Never make assumptions about the homeless, well, about anybody.) I asked him if he’d always known Jesus, even as a child, and again he answered no.
He used to be a witch.
Oh. So I asked, “What changed that?”
He said he’d walked through the desert.
He told me about his journey on the road from Texas to San Francisco. About his friend and about LSD. Then about reading his Bible for a whole year. And about finding truth. And finding Jesus.
His life was new. He learned then taught at a Bible school for eight years in California. He was recently released from the position when they decided he was too mystical to teach there.
He said he was big into spiritual warfare. He flipped to underlined verses and margin notes he’d scribbled around Ephesians 6. We talked about wearing the armor of God and what each piece meant and how important it was.
But he was almost out the door to catch the bus back to wherever he came from (and eventually back to family in North Carolina, hopefully) when I caught his attention one last time to ask my final question:
“Hey Gary, would you share with me your favorite Bible verse?”
I knew it’d tell me the most about Gary. The truths we treasure the greatest, reveal our greatest treasures.
“It’s Matthew 24:13.” And he quoted it,
But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:13 (NIV)
That’s what Gary was most about. Just standing in Jesus. Against the devil’s schemes. Firm to the end (Ephesians 6:11-13).
I don’t know all the warfare that’s come against Gary. That comes against him still.
And I don’t know if our paths will ever cross again. Sometimes one intersection is all we get, and this may have been ours.
But at that junction and for that moment, hearing that answer from Gary about what counts most may have been enough for a lifetime.
So Gary, wherever you are tonight, I pray you’re doing what matters the most. Stand firm to the end, my brother.
* * *
Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Why is it special to you?